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Shares of Take-Two Interactive Software (TTWO - Free Report) gained more than 2.7% in late morning trading Thursday after the video game publisher announced a new partnership with the National Basketball Association.

Take-Two, the developer of the popular “NBA 2K” franchise, will team up with the NBA to launch a brand new eSports organization. This relationship between eSports team and pro sports league is the first of its kind, and it could prove important for both entities as a growing number of businesses attempt to cash in on the growing popularity of competitive gaming.

The new competition—dubbed “NBA 2K eLeague”—is set to launch in 2018 and will feature teams operated by each of the NBA’s 30 franchises. The league will mirror that of a typical NBA season, which includes regular season games, a bracketed playoff, and an overall championship match.

Take-Two will head into the partnership well aware of the NBA, as the organizations have been business partners since the video game company first launched its “NBA 2K” franchise in 1999. The game has become one of Take-Two’s most popular titles, selling about 7 million copies of the latest version.

Nevertheless, Take-Two has been hesitant to enter the competitive gaming market and will enter the field significantly behind its industry rivals, including Electronic Arts (EA - Free Report) , Tencent Holdings (TCEHY - Free Report) , and Activision Blizzard (ATVI - Free Report) .

All of these companies have recently developed their own eSports outlets, utilizing their most popular franchises to quench gamers’ new thirst for competition. According to research from Newzoo, the eSports market rose to become a nearly $500 million business worldwide last year.

Check out our quick guide for more information on this growing industry: Esports is The Next Billion Dollar Industry: 3 Stocks to Watch

And for more on the latest trends in the video gaming industry, check out this exclusive interview with Andrew Chanin, CEO of Pure Funds, and the Zacks Friday Finish Line team:


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